A five pound note, a simple piece of paper with some monetary value attached to it. We fold them up, shove them into our pockets, hand them over in exchange for something with very little thought of what happens to that humble five pound note after you hand it over. Where does it go? Who ends up with it next? And how could that fiver impact a person’s life?
Fiver, written by Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees, uses a five pound note to bring together multiple characters in a clever, thought provoking look at life in modern London as money changes hand. It played to critical acclaim at the Southwark Playhouse last year, and in these strange times, the original five person cast, reunited (socially distanced of course) to perform the show at the venue once more in a newly reworked concert version.
Alex James Ellison shines as a guitar strumming busker, narrating the piece. He’s instantly lovable, full of charm and excitement as he tells the story of the fiver, the places it’s been and the things that it’s seen. With great stage presence, he holds the piece together with ease. I particularly enjoyed his song trying to convince a barista to give him a free coffee. Hiba Elshikhe jumps from character to character, each very different from the last. From someone trying to get her partner to open up about the loss of his brother to a student displaying worryingly obsessive behaviour over a teacher. That’s a very dark turn I wasn’t expecting.
Daniel Buckley shows great range, from a beautifully heartfelt proposal song to a wonderfully uplifting song from a homeless guy who believes that it is his lucky day after being given a fiver and a coffee in the same day. Luke Bayer breaks hearts as a single father raising his son alone and Aoife Clesham shows off some true comedy skills as a rejected girlfriend making phone calls to her ex whilst becoming increasingly thankful for the ability to rerecord voicemails.
The music is clever, catchy and very well written, with styles including soft rock, powerful ballads, fun patter songs and rap. The story, although engaging and placed together in a very clever way, it does become a little bit hard to follow at times with so many different characters introduced in quick succession. Whilst this doesn’t distract from the enjoyability of the show, I can’t help but think that less characters would have meant that we got to know some of them better.
Fiver is a show well suited to these strange times, with a cast able to keep their distances, each with their own five pound notes (no handovers needed) without distracting from the story and the action. The exceptional cast bring a multitude of characters to life with heart, passion and honesty, depicting true to life events, all linked by a humble fiver. I am sure that this live-streamed concert isn’t the last that we will see of this one.